COMPANY OF TRUTH:
MEDITATION AND SACRALIZED INTERACTION AMONG WESTERN FOLLOWERS OF AN INDIAN GURU

Lucy Gwyn DuPertuis

ABSTRACT

This study presents the worldview of Western followers of Guru Maharaj Ji, who came to the West from India in 1971 at the age of thirteen to spread his teaching through the Divine Light Mission.

The study sees a multi-leveled religious worldview coming alive as the ground of social life. It first shows the detailed methods followers use to control and concentrate their minds in meditation and devotional practices, and the tailoring of their activities, both within and outside of their group, toward religious and meditative ends.

Next the study explores the social dimension of religious awareness. The meditative state is regenerated in group context in daily "satsangs," or testimonial rituals, and in "festivals" where thousands gather to experience their Guru's presence and bow down to him in the "darshan" ceremony.

The group's continuing survival is examined by looking at its volatile power structure, its cycles of insulationism and conversionism, the marginal economic niche assumed by its members, and its periodic attempts to proselytize its teaching. Intertwined with this analysis is an exploration of how members maintain their meaning system in all its symbolic and meditative dimensions; not only officially by organizational decisions, official practices and sanctions, but also unofficially by common members in their day-in day-out life routines,

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in their attempt to sacralize their interaction with one another and thus live out their common life in a sacred reality.

The introductory chapters describe the "threshold stance" taken by the researcher, a former Divine Light Mission member who seeks an objective rendering of the insider religious reality to the outsider, a rendering which embraces neither insider beliefs nor the sort of academic posture which reduces away religious experience.

The study concludes with a look at Divine Light Mission's Indian origins and a critique of the American popular adaptation of Hindu beliefs, practices, and social forms.

Robert N. Bellah
Chairman, Dissertation Committee